Read Julian by Gore Vidal Online


The remarkable bestseller about the fourth-century Roman emperor who famously tried to halt the spread of Christianity, Julian is widely regarded as one of Gore Vidal’s finest historical novels.Julian the Apostate, nephew of Constantine the Great, was one of the brightest yet briefest lights in the history of the Roman Empire. A military genius on the level of Julius CaesaThe remarkable bestseller about the fourth-century Roman emperor who famously tried to halt the spread of Christianity, Julian is widely regarded as one of Gore Vidal’s finest historical novels.Julian the Apostate, nephew of Constantine the Great, was one of the brightest yet briefest lights in the history of the Roman Empire. A military genius on the level of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, a graceful and persuasive essayist, and a philosopher devoted to worshiping the gods of Hellenism, he became embroiled in a fierce intellectual war with Christianity that provoked his murder at the age of thirty-two, only four years into his brilliantly humane and compassionate reign. A marvelously imaginative and insightful novel of classical antiquity, Julian captures the religious and political ferment of a desperate age and restores with blazing wit and vigor the legacy of an impassioned ruler....

Title : Julian
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ISBN : 9780375727061
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 528 Pages
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Julian Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-01-27 17:54

    ”We are toys, and a divine child takes us up and puts us down, and breaks us when he chooses.”Julian IIJulian was a child raised in the midst of turmoil. After the death of Constantine the Great in 337AD, there was a huge power vacuum in the Roman Empire, and Julian’s cousin Constantius II methodically eliminated all those who could potentially threaten his reign or those of his brothers. One of those executed was Julian’s father. Julian and his brother Gallus were spared. Their youth may have spared them, but in Julian’s later writings, he wrote that he believed that only at the urging of Empress Eusebia, by the thinnest of margins, were they saved. The very thing that nearly ended their lives, that dangle between their legs, also made them valuable to the family. Constantius II and his brothers were having difficulties spawning male children to assume the throne. If the Empire was to remain in family hands, then Gallus and Julian would be the only means with which to do so. The boys are sequestered away under the tutelage of Bishop Eusebius in Nicomedia. It is never a bad thing to be out of sight and out of mind; after all, Constantius had already proven that he was not squeamish about getting family blood on his hands. As has been proven time and again, absolute power corrupts absolutely. ”First the tyrant plays harmless games: ...plays practical jokes; and no matter what he says and does, everyone laughs and flatters him, finds witty his most inane remarks. Then the small jokes begin to pall. One day he finds it amusing to rape another man’s wife, as the husband watches, or the husband as the wife looks on, or to torture them both, or to kill them. When the killing begins, the emperor is no longer a man but a beast, and we have had too many beasts already on the throne of the world.”The boys live in constant, real fear that one day someone will arrive with a summons for them to see the Emperor. This directive can indicate two very different intentions. They could be receiving a promotion, or the more probable one is they are being set up to be executed. Any wild rumor can be the end of them. It would certainly give anyone a different perspective on life living under the constant threat of death. The older they become the more dangerous they become to Constantius. Coin of Constantius Gallus, brother of Julian.Gallus is sent for and made Caesar of the East in 351, which was a position representing a trial run to show his loyalty to Constantius and prove his ability to be the heir to the empire. Unfortunately, Julian’s brother proved unreliable. Gallus had shown signs of instability as a boy; power did not quell these tendencies, but merely enhanced their vulnerabilities. His head was separated from his body in 354. And then there was one.In 355, Julian is named Caesar. Being named Caesar is equivalent to being chased by angry, snarling German’s with ”Their dyed hair worn long, and hangs about the face like a lion’s mane,” down a long, dark alleyway where every door is locked, and all you can do is keep running to the end. Eventually, the worst you can imagine is probably going to happen.Every shadow that falls across your doorway is a potential assassin. Herculean sphincter and bladder control would be imperative for anyone wanting to wear the purple. Julian would have rather been a philosopher or even a philosopher priest if he must. Before being conscripted into the family business, he spent a short glorious time in Athens learning from the very best philosophers. Books were his solace for the rest of his life. ”As long as I could read, I was never entirely wretched.”Coin of Constantius II.One of the conditions that Constantius made for Julian to be named Caesar was that Julian had to marry his sister, Helena. When someone is setting you up on a date and they keep talking about your potential date’s sparkling personality, you know they are not one of the blessedly lovely people. Helena *shudder* hopefully had at least a great personality, because unfortunately *shudder* she looked TOO much like her father. ”Helena was a good woman but our moments of intimacy were rare, unsatisfactory, and somewhat pathetic, for I did want to please her. But it was never pleasant, making love to a bust of Constantine.”Julian is remembered as the Apostate. He was such an advocate of Greek philosophy that he wanted to return the Empire to the Neoplatonic paganism. Constantine the Great, Julian’s uncle, was the first Roman Emperor to proclaim himself a Christian, but also the first to sign a decree that allowed tolerance for Christianity. It is really remarkable how fast Christianity took over such a large part of the world. “No other religion ever considered it necessary to destroy others because they did not share their same beliefs.” I guess, if you are intent on eliminating the competition, growth happens exponentially. With convert or die being the only options, most people will waver in their firmest beliefs. Who is to say, after all, who you worship in the cathedral in your head? Julian’s rise to power came relatively quickly after this mass conversion to Christianity, or Galileanism as Julian liked to refer to them because he didn’t feel they were very “Christian” in the way they conducted themselves. The point being, there were still a lot of people who might be professed Christians, but were actually Pagans in their hearts, so when Julian adopted Hellenism and brought back the old Gods along with the sacrificing of animals, there were numerous people who were happy that he brought back the old ways. The Galileans were furious and began plotting his assassination. They are not alone; Julian’s enemies are as innumerable as a field of wheat. I’ve read that part of the attraction of Christianity is the single God concept. Trying to keep a whole multitude of Gods straight and who is responsible for what was confusing and difficult. To worship one God under the Pagan system was to offend another, and sacrificing animals was frankly expensive for most people. It was a huge deal for Constantine to convert, and it was also a huge deal for Julian to bring back Hellenism. It sort of reminds me of the whiplash between Catholicism and Protestantism that happened in England in the 16th century. Religion, unfortunately, has proven a very effective way to divide us. Julian did not try to get rid of Christianity. He just wanted religious tolerance so that everyone could worship the way they wanted. He did remove a lot of Galileans from positions of power, which created a lot of adversity for him, but it was necessary because he needed people loyal to him. This would not be an abnormal thing, but when people feel they are being persecuted for religious reasons rather than political reasons, even though in this case the two were wrapped together, they take it much, much more personal. Coin of Alexander the Great.Julian was a surprisingly good military commander and soon conquered Gaul and put down several uprisings. Julian saw himself as a student of Alexander the Great and wished to experience the same level of success in war as his hero. He was in the midst of conquering Persia when he died. He was a commander who threw himself in the fray, which is honorable, but ultimately detrimental to the cause if he is taken or killed. Controversy swirls around his death, and Gore Vidal has some very distinct opinions of what he felt happened. Vidal starts this book with a series of letters between two philosophers, Priscus and Libanius, who both knew Julian well. They are attempting to edit and prepare Julian’s journals for publication, which of course is still a hot potato in 380AD. I actually found myself chuckling several times as these philosophers betrayed their own sense of pride, petty jealousies, and false memories. Most of the story is told from “the discovered journals” of Julian. This blending of the journals with the uncertain memories of the philosophers is a remarkable achievement of historical fiction writing. Like his book Lincoln, Vidal brings the central characters to life in Julian and makes the reader feel the fear and uncertainty of Julian’s childhood. He places the reader on a camp stool in that tent in Persia as Julian gives his final commands. From beginning to end you are there. I do wonder if Julian had lived longer if religious tolerance would have taken root and been more of a standard right of all people? Why do we care so much how someone worships or for that matter whom someone sleeps with and how can some of us believe that a man’s skin color can have anything to do with his character? It seems we always work so hard to discover how we are different instead of putting that same work into discovering what we have in common. Julian had the right ideas, but he would have had to set aside his lust for conquest and exchanged it for the much more difficult task of maintaining peace. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • Travis
    2019-01-31 14:47

    I love Roman history. Had Julian (the Apostate) been less conciliatory, the Christians would have remained a fringe sect. Uncompromising themselves, and ultimately triumphant, the Christians stamped out what Julian loved most: knowledge.This book is written as letters between Libanius and Priscus, who discuss what to do with Julian's diary. Vidal's prose is sublime--always informing and entertaining, sometimes sharp and often funny. Historical fiction is rarely this good.

  • Eric_W
    2019-02-04 18:55

    Julian the Apostate was emperor of Rome from 361-363 CE and the nephew of Constantine. Raised in a strict Christian environment (although of the Arian tradition), he formally announced his conversion to paganism in 361 and became a public enemy of Christianity.That provides the background for Vidal's excellent historical novel (historical in the best sense in that Vidal tried to use as many actual events and recorded conversations as possible). Vidal is, of course, rather flagrant in rejecting Christianity himself, so it is easy to see why Julian's gradual rejection of what he viewed as a faith filled with contradictions both in belief and behavior would be appealing to Vidal.The book is told from Julian's point of view as a form of autobiography with little side social commentaries of two of his friends. The debate between the supporters of Athanasius (who finally won out) and the Arians is well explained. In the fourth century (see also When Jesus Became God, the debate over the divinity of Jesus was of huge consequence. The Arians (basing their case on John 14:25) believed in the doctrine of homoiousios: Jesus was a similar substance to God the father but created by him. The followers of Athanasius adopted that "pernicious doctrine" later codified in the Nicene Creed of homoousius (meaning that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same).It was essential for Julian to pretend to be one of the Galileans, as Christians were called then, because it was the declared religion of Rome after Constantine. As a potential successor to the throne, he was subject to all sorts of plots and political machinations, and these dangers form much of the tension of the book, as Julian tries to remain alive posing as a student of philosophy with no interest in politics. Julian's childhood was that of a prince with all that entails, including constant supervision, little access to people besides his siblings, and strict regulation of behavior. Julian's cousin, the reigning emperor Constantius, fearing for his throne, systematically murdered those who might be a threat -- especially his relatives -- so Julian had to tread very carefully. Fortunately, Julian was needed to be the titular head of Gaul, so he was removed from Athens, married to Constantius's sister, Helena, and sent to barbarian Europe. Julian, whom the emperor suspected had no military prowess, surprised everyone with his skill in battle as well as administratively, even though his hands were often tied by Constantius's Florentius, who had a great deal of administrative control. Constantius's attempts to subdue the Persians was to prove his undoing, and when he demanded that virtually all of Julian's troops be sent to him - despite Julian's promise to the troops from Gaul that they would not have to serve outside the province - those troops rebelled and demanded that Julian be appointed Julian Augustus, i.e., Emperor of the West. Helena, by this time, even though she was sister to Constantius, sided with Julian, because she knew that her brother had murdered her two children because he feared them as threats to his throne. Before a civil war could result Constantius died.Julian's (Vidal's?) comments on power and the corrupting role of imperialism are as pertinent today as they might have been two centuries ago: " Wherever there is a throne, one may observe in rich detail every folly and wickedness of which man is capable, enameled with manners and gilded with hypocrisy." "I have often felt when studying history that not enough is made of those intermediaries who so often do the actual governing. . . As a result, factions within the court could form and reform, irrelevant to the nominal power. . . .On the throne of the world, any delusion can become fact." The corruption and greed become palpable in Vidal's words.Vidal uses a triple narrative technique that intersperses Julian's "autobiography" with comments by two contemporaries, a philosopher and a rhetorician, whose views do not always coincide with Julian's, permitting Vidal to offer disparate views of events. Julian is ultimately portrayed as a pagan philosopher-leader struggling against the hypocrisy of the new Galilean religion and trying to recapture the glory of the lost Hellenistic past.Julian used his military and imperial rights to revive paganism and subdue the upstart Christian cult, but was killed - Vidal suggests by one of his own men, perhaps at the direction of the bishops - during the war against the Persians.Vidal has vividly captured the intense political maneuvering and danger of being in line to succeed to the throne. This is historical fiction at its nail-biting best.minor editing 11/19/11

  • Terence Hawkins
    2019-02-02 16:51

    I don't know how or why anyone would let a thirteen year old withdraw this book from a public library but someone did, and it went a long way towards forming my mind. For better or worse.Julian the Apostate was born just a little too late: the last Hellenist (pagan) in the family of Constantine, who a few years before Julian's birth had converted the Roman Empire to Christianity. The novel chronicles his unlikely rise to power and its inevitable conclusion. Not a plot spoiler----aren't a lot of practicing pagans around, are there? It takes the form of an exchange of letters and reminiscences between two Athenian philosophers who had known Julian as a young man, the letters transmitting portions of a hitherto-unknown memoir in Julian's own hand. The memoir, naturally, is the bulk of the novel.I don't know how to put this otherwise: this book, more than any other I've read in the nearly forty years since, made the ancient world come alive. Having done that it led me to question seriously the historical antecedents of the religion in which I was being raised. But forget that: this book is so good that I reread it every three to five years.Oh---funny thing about reading a 1963 novel when you're thirteen. The descriptions of sex are so circumspect that no kid can imagine what's going on.

  • Marquise
    2019-01-24 20:44

    Excellent novel! I had a recollection of this book from ages back, but needed to retake it, and it was a good idea to read it following Ken Broeders' Apostate series, which also has Caesar Julian Augustus as its protagonist. I thought it'd be an interesting new experience to revisit this period of Roman history I normally don't invest much in by way of contrasting different depictions of the emperor who tried to end Christianity as Rome's official religion. In this novel, we get Julian's story in his own words, as this is written in journal plus historical chronicle format, but it doesn't mean we only get his side, because interspersed throughout Julian's journal entries are "commentaries" by two men who knew and followed him, a pair of often cheeky philosophers called Priscus and Libanius, who interject protests, clarifications, and hilarious counterfactual addenda in-between the emperor's account of events, sometimes outright contradicting him. That was a clever device by Gore Vidal to give the story the feel of impartiality that first person narratives usually lack. In contrast to Broeders' series, this book has a sober tone, sometimes rather too serious, yet doesn't entirely circumvent little bits of scandal and salacious morsels to enliven the story, which is a neat mix to keep readers entertained. I also found Vidal's interpretation of how Julian's demise came to be rather unexpected, as it's one I didn't remember reading. Very creative, though, and makes you feel for this apostate emperor and for what could have been if he'd not died so young whilst at the pinnacle.

  • Laura
    2019-02-10 21:08

    In my sad and maddening teenage years, I happened on my mother’s copy of the Oxford Book of British Verse and read through it with the doggedness I had at the time. One poem that hit me hard was Algernon Charles Swinburne’s Hymn to Proserpina, written in the voice of a Roman lamenting the passing of the old gods as Rome embraced Christianity. It begins with the line “Vicisti, Galilæe,” which, I am told, translates to “Thou hast conquered, Galilean,” and, I am told, was not said by the Emperor Julian as he lay dying. I’m older and less full of fire and gothic sentimentality these days, but some of Swinburne’s lines still give me shivers. Viz, these: Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath; We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death. Laurel is green for a season, and love is sweet for a day; But love grows bitter with treason, and laurel outlives not May. I read and re-read the poem, and it gave me vague, mythic notions about this Emperor who both seems progressive, as he attempted to create a Rome of religious pluralism, and deeply conservative in the William F. Buckley mode of standing athwart history and yelling “Stop!” Constantine’s nephew, who tried, and failed, to undo what he did. If he had not died two years into his reign, history might have been very different. On the occasion of Gore Vidal’s death, I thought to read one of his books, and more or less randomly picked Julian. Very readable, and it made me like Julian in a less soppy way. At least as portrayed by Vidal, while he got his hands dirty, he strove hard to be a good man and a good Emperor. I’m startled, though, that according to the Guardian obituary, it was a best seller. It is, among other things, a scathing critique of Christianity. Julian despises it, and Christians are portrayed in this text as despicable; manipulative, treacherous, small minded, and murderous. It is an elegy for the world that could have been, had Julian lived. I am also struck that it was a best seller (I don’t know when or by what metric) because it was published the year after JFK was assassinated. Julian, in this text if not by history, dies by a spear thrust from his own bodyguard, the victim of a plot by the Christians in his immediate circle who made a pact he would not live to return from the war. I don’t want to stretch the analogy too far, but in both times, the world was disrupted, and not, by the death of leader. While Julian may not have been loved by all, he was loved by Libanius, one of the narrators. Perhaps people turned to this book to take solace in another man’s grief after the death of a beloved leader. It ends with a powerful quote, spoken by Libanius, who has been informed that the current emperor will not allow him to publish a biography of Julian at this time. Libanius is old, and nearly blind, and near death. He tells us:“I have been reading Plotinus all evening. He has the power to sooth me; and I find his sadness curiously comforting. Even when he writes: “Life here with the things of earth is a sinking, a defeat, a failure of the wing.” The wing has indeed failed. One sinks. Defeat is certain. Even as I write these lines, the lamp wick sputters to an end, and the pool of light in which I sit contracts. Soon the room will be dark. One has always feared that death would be like this. But what else is there? With Julian, the light went, and now nothing remains but to let the darkness come, and hope for a new sun and another day, born of time’s mystery and a man’s love of life.” (502). I would have loved this book when I was a soppy teenager. If Julian had prevailed, we might never have had the dark ages, the Inquisition, the men who feared witches and burned women, the condemnation of Galileo. Now it fills me with a mild regret for the untimely death of a man who might have built a better world.

  • Jack
    2019-02-21 14:55

    I suggest that those who can not accept criticism of their Christian religion skip this book. The Roman Emperor Julian was totally offended by the Christians of the 4th century AD.I first read this historical novel back in the 1960's. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it even more now. This time I really picked up on Julian's flaws; 40 years ago I think I just was rooting for him to win (knowing, of course, he would ultimately fail) and I ignored this dark side. Gore Vidal did extensive research in preparation for this book and it shows.

  • Armin Hennig
    2019-02-02 21:49

    73/100 Meisterwerk mit massivem DurchhängerPersönliche BefangenheitserklärungJulian Apostata oder Julian, der Abtrünnige steht ganz am Anfang meiner Lesekarriere mit Erwachsenenliteratur, das alte Buch (Der sterbende Gott oder so), in dem die Ära des Kaisers, der die Christianisierung stoppen wollte, eine Nebenrolle spielte, werde ich zwar nie mehr finden, aber die Faszination dieser historischen Gestalt hat mich nie losgelassen. Der Erstkontakt mit Felix Dahns Roman, den ich mir in diesem Jahr noch einmal vornehmen werde, hat das Interesse weiter gesteigert, von daher bin ich sofort auf den Roman von Gore Vidal angesprungen, sobald er auf der to-read Liste von GR-Freund Jos auftauchte. Bevor ich eine Empfehlung für Gore Vidals Darstellung ausspreche, muss ich allerdings hinzu fügen, dass die Parallel-Lektüre von Edward Gibbons Fall und Untergang des Römischen Reichs viel zum Verständnis und vollen Genuss des Romans beigetragen hat, manchmal aber auch als die deutlich interessantere Lektüre an der Fiktion vorbei gezogen ist.Schwächen und StärkenGerade der Mittelteil (237-438 in meiner Ausgabe) ist Gore Vidal doch etwas fade geraten, der Weg zum Kaisertum bis zum Aufbruch zu fatalen Persienfeldzug und dem katastrophal verlaufenen Aufenthalt in Antiochia ist doch ziemlich eindimensional geraten, auch wenn die beiden Kommentatoren der (fiktiven) Kaisermemoiren schon in diesem Stadium eine gewisse Tendenz zur Verkennung der Realität aufgrund eines unwiderstehlichen Sendungsbewusstseins, konstatieren. Die gegensätzlichen Philosophen Priscus (Sensoriker, Tatsachenmensch)und Libiamus (Rhetoriker/Neoplatonist) kommentieren die Memoiren und relativieren die Wertungen oder Eingebungen des Kaisers, dessen Charisma sie einst selbst erlegen sind.Im ersten und im dritten Teil erfährt der Leser dadurch eine faszinierende Suche nach der Wahrheit bis hin zur Aufklärung des Mordkomplotts es an dem Kaiser, der durch seine vorbildliche Lebensweise, philosophische Klarheit und durch militärische Erfolge die Wiederherstellung der alten Götter und Heiligtümer sichern wollte. Der erste Teil besteht aus der Jugend Julians und seines bevorzugten Bruders Gallus unter der ständigen Bedrohung aus dynastischen Gründen vom eigenen Onkel umgebracht zu werden, der schon ihren Vater töten ließ. Die Todesdrohung, bzw. vom Augustus Constantius vorprogrammiertes Scheitern als Cäsar bestimmen die erste Hälfte. Vor dem Hintergrund der Doppelmoral des zur Staatsreligion erhobenen Christentums, gewinnen die Kontakte mit zahlreichen Philosophen samt der Einweihung in den Kult des Mithras und die eleusischen Mysterien bilden das Panorama der im Rückgang befindlichen Welt der alten Götter eine glaubwürdige Faszination für den jungen Mann. Zugleich bemerken P und L inwieweit ihr Held von gewissen Leuten wie dem Magier Maximus in diese Richtung manipuliert wurde. Vor dem Hintergrund von Gores Buch ist mir die Passage in Gibbons Darstellung über die massive Verfolgung der Magier unter den Nachfolgern Valentinian und Valens erst klar geworden, sonst hat der Klassiker eher zum Verständnis des Romans bzw. gewisser Antipathien des Verfassers viel beigetragen.Als Romancier versagt Vidal geradezu eklatant im Mittelteil, trotzdem gerät der Teil, in dem man das Buch am liebsten an die Wand werfen oder zumindest für immer weglegen würde, zum Beginn der Ehrenrettung. In Antiochia, der ersten Station auf dem Weg nach Persien, führt sich der Kaiser als absolut kleinliches Arschloch auf, der den verhassten Christen in Sachen Intoleranz absolut das Wasser reichen kann. (view spoiler)[Während dieser frühen Phase fällt und vor dem ersten Feindkontakt fällt schon die Entscheidung, dass Julian nicht lebend von diesem Feldzug zurück kehren wird. Der von Maximus Prophezeiungen angefeuerte Juilan will Alexander übertreffen und lässt darüber die Möglichkeit zu einem günstigen Frieden und maximaler Demütigung des persischen Königs verstreichen. (hide spoiler)] Die verpasste Gelegenheit zum Frieden zu den bestmöglichen Bedingungen, die je ein römischer Feldherr erzielt hat, führt zum endgültigen Verlust der Akzeptanz bei den Generälen und dem raschen Niedergang des so unglaublich erfolgreich begonnenen Feldzugs, zumal Julian, auch wenn er keusch wie ein Mönch lebt, so gut wie sämtliche Versprechen bricht, mit denen er einst Kaiser geworden ist. Die aus Selbstüberschätzung oder falschen Ehrgeiz zunichte gemachten Reformen, machen Gores Julian zu einem tragischen Helden und die alt gewordenen Philosophen zu Opfern der danach unaufhaltsamen Christianisierung.Fazit und abschließende EmpfehlungDer tragische und doch so gesetzmäßig plausible Schluss zieht das Buch noch mal deutlich in Richtung vier Sterne, aber nach der gelungenen Jugendgeschichte, gilt es eine lange Durstrecke zu überwinden. Treffende Portraits und bezeichnende Szenen mit historischem Personal machen den Roman zum Lesevergnügen, immer voraus gesetzt, man weiß, wen man gerade vor sich hat, noch bevor einer der Kommentatoren den Namen nennt. Von daher die vermessene Empfehlung, zu 600 Seiten Vidal ruhig noch mal knapp dieselbe Anzahl Seiten des als Vorlage genutzten Edward Gibbon hinzuzuziehen, bzw. nach dem ersten Drittel vorzuziehen. Über manche Wertungen des Altmeisters kann man zwar heute nur noch den Kopf schütteln, manchmal auch über die Gutgläubigkeit des Aufklärers in manchen Fragen, aber Vidals Buch in in vielen Punkten eine Reaktion oder anschauliche Fußnote in Gestalt eines Romans. Von daher würde ich sagen: als Einzellektüre ist der Roman nur ein halber Genuss, jedenfalls für alle, die nicht einen Zweitwohnsitz in der Spätantike haben, von daher aufgerundete vier Sterne. Auch wegen der Durststrecke von 200 Seiten in der Mitte.

  • Rares Cristea
    2019-02-04 17:54

    Nu cred ca pot scrie o recenzie suficient de buna pentru a exprima tot ce inseamna Iulian de Gore Vidal.Imi plac romanele istorice, tocmai pentru ca pot face o comparatie intre adevar si reinterpretarea autorului. Sa extrag esenta literara prin efectuarea diferentei intre fictiune si factualitate. Insa Iulian mi-a conferit o dorinta de ignoranta. Daca viata imparatului s-a desfasurat altfel decat in modul descris in acest roman, nici nu vreau sa admit adevarul ca realitate, caci pana la urma si fictiunea este felul sau de realitate. Iulian nu este doar povestea unei vieti de imparat. Este povestea unei sfasieri a timpului. Iulian Apostatul a fost ultimul imparat roman care sa se inchine zeilor pagani, ai romei. Unchiul sau, Constantin cel Mare, a adoptat religia crestina ca religie oficiala a casei imperiale, cu cateva decenii inainte de nasterea nepotului, insa in Roma vechii zei continuau sa fie venerati, desi adeptii erau adesea persecutati. Iulian este introdus ca un potential pretendent al tronului imperial, detinut in anul 345 de Constantius al II-lea. Pasionat de filosofie, si de cultura elenista singurul lui obiectiv este sa ramana in viata. Evenimente fortuite in viata tanarului, il propulseaza mai intai in pozitia de Cezar al Galiei, iar apoi, datorita talentului militar, in pozitia de Imparat la Romei. De fiecare data , Iulian accepta sub aparenta dorinta inocenta de a ramane in viata. Romanul infatiseaza perfect efectul de corupere al puterii. Dintr-un copil slab, fara aspiratii mai mari decat cele de sihastrie, ajunge un imparat puternic, abil :" Nu sunt eu Alexandru cel reintors pentru a termina marea lucrare de a aduce Rasaritului barbar adevarul din Grecia? "Gore Vidal structureaza romanul pe baza unei corespondente intre doi filozofi, apropiati ai lui Iulian, ce intreprind scrierea unei biografii a imparatului, bazata pe memoriile pe care acesata si-le a notat spre sfarsitul vietii. Exista astfel o dubla relatare asupra evenimentelor. Perspectiva lui Iulian rareori este obiectiva, dar este completata de la fel de subiectiva perspectiva a filozofilor. Un punct central al romanului este divergenta religioasa, ce a si adus moartea imparatului. Momentul in care tanarul este convins de credinta sa pagana, mi-a amintit teribil de Star Wars, trilogia lui Anakin. Vidal creeaza un punct de dezbatere bine conturat in privinta celor doua religii. Ridica problema alegerii unui singur popor, revizuirea bibliei, diferentei intre cei doi Dumnezei, cel veterotestamentar si neotestamentar s.a.m.d.Pe alocuri (inevitabil pentru mine sa nu fac comparatia asta) imi aducea aminte de personajul lui Frank Underwood, din cauza stilului de ascedere sociala, aparent nevinovata, dar revelata cu ajutorul celor doi naratori. Iulian nu devine full-blown tyrant, dar ii persecuta pe galileeni si se bucura de puterea si gloria acumulata.In ultimul rand, sfarsitul romanului este fenomenal. Este descrisa moartea imparatului. O moarte pe care chiar el recunoaste este unica, pentru ca isi incheie viata cu un discurs asupra-i, lucru nemaifacut de vreun conducator al Romei. Nu pot recomanda suficient aceasta carte, ORICUI, TUTUOR !

  • Bruce
    2019-02-07 14:51

    Julian is historical fiction masquerading as an posthumously annotated autobiography of Constantine's nephew (successor as emperor to elder cousin Constantius, circa 350 CE). In a way, Vidal makes his own critique on p. 436, writing, “Traditionally the reporting of speeches in historical texts is not meant to be literal…. Yet here is Julian… already altering the text. History is idle gossip about a happening whose truth is lost the instant it has taken place. I offer you this banality for what it is: the truth!” (Emphasis in the original.)I find quotes like this to be striking in such twisted meta-contexts. This book's structure cannot be easily ignored. Here we have a twice-framed story (Vidal writing a novel in which two philosopher-contemporaries eulogize and discuss publication of journal and memoir material that they have copied but which are ultimately to be suppressed). Why do this? One possibility is that Vidal means for the reader to consider history critically, as a series of competing points of view which, like all claims for objective "truth," carries within itself the flaws of its recorders.If so, Vidal really has fun with the conceit, breaking the fourth wall of his various frames repeatedly. For example, at page 158, after claiming to quote first Pindar (“Happy is he who, having seen these rights, goes below the hollow earth…”) and then Sophocles (‘Sophocles described initiates as “Thrice-happy mortals, who having seen those rites depart for Hades….”), Vidal as Julian coyly writes, “I quote from memory. (Note to secretary: Correct quotations, if they are wrong.)” Vidal wrote this (if one can believe the author's own mischievious valedictory which he places in lieu of his own character's dating at the bottom of the last page) between 1959 and 1964, a time long before readers could validate literary quotes through a simple web search.Since this is the first Vidal book I've actually read, I don't know if the author is prone to this kind of thing. I selected this book to start with both because I enjoy Roman history and because a consensus of friends familiar with Vidal and various reviews has it that Julian is the best of his many works. It's not bad, humorous in spots, exciting in others, but fairly rambling throughout. If the "quest for truth" theme had been consistently and progressively explored (as it frequently is early on not only via the narrative structure but in ongoing antithesis of Christian theology and Platonic philosophy/Greek pantheism), the book might have cohered better. As it is, once Julian accedes (by virtual accident) to the throne and is then persuaded to become the next Alexander and conquer Persia, things go a bit awry. Don't misunderstand my complaint. I know that this is a pseudo-autobiography, and that people's lives tend to be untidy collections of random events. However, with no unifying mystery (e.g., who killed Julian, which arises midway through the first third and then returns only at the end), theme (e.g., what is truth, which peppers the first half of the book), or argument (e.g., how should we in our era view religion, which crops up in the first half of the last third of the book), the story frequently drifts and repeats itself.Vidal can sometimes use his character's voice to make stark observations, as at page 301, when newly-anointed emperor Julian soaks his closest advisers from his vast bath-pool and then immediately considers the sources of corruption: “Then I was alarmed. In just this way are monsters born. First, the tyrant plays harmless games: splashes senators in the bath, serves wooden food to dinner guests, plays practical jokes; and no matter what he says and does, everyone laughs and flatters him, finds witty his most inane remarks. Then the small jokes begin to pall. One day he finds it amusing to rape another man’s wife, as the husband watches, or the husband as the wife looks on, or to torture them both, or to kill them. When the killing begins, the emperor is no longer a man but a beast, and we have had too many beasts already on the throne of the world.” While this is no more than an illustrative way of citing the cliche that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, it was still fairly poignant.Christian readers, even those without a fundamentalist bent, might find Vidal's hectoring through reformer/anti-Christian-crusader Julian a bit tough to take after awhile. A typical example of this occurs at page 86, where Vidal (quoting Julian quoting magician/Mithraist/charlatan/guru Maximus): "The Christians wish to replace our beautiful legends with the police record of a reforming Jewish rabbi. Out of this unlikely material they hope to make a final synthesis of all the religions ever known. They now appropriate our feast days. They transform local deities into saints. They borrow from our mystery rites, particularly those of Mithras…. I betray no secret of Mithras when I tell you that we, too, partake of a symbolic meal, recalling the words of the prophet Zarathustra, who said to those who worshipped the One God – and Mithras, ‘He who eats of my body and drinks of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.’ That was spoken six centuries before the Nazarene.” A little of this makes for fascinating historical context to Julian (the Apostate). A bit more of this threatens to become preachy. But unfortunately this book is so chock-full of Christian theological bashing, ridicule of 4th century Christian personal habits and corrupt practices, and self-acknowledged ad hominem attack (Christians are Galileans, churches are charnel houses, priests are greedy exploiters of their parishioners, etc.) that Vidal makes even an anti-religious sot like me start to feel sorry for them. I guess I'm more tolerant than I thought.Ah, well. At the end of the day, I suppose the book Julian turns out to be good -- for its fourth century Roman history and attempt to explore the psychology of a ruler who had he lived a longer life, might have made our Western world a very different place. But it's not great, and great is what I was looking for. I suppose I'll come back to another work by Vidal later (before I knew any of his titles, my vague impression of Gore Vidal was as a Truman Capote-style sensationalist with great hair). However, as I've got a few things on my nightstand ahead, I see no need to rush.

  • Louise
    2019-02-12 16:56

    I didn't think Vidal's "Burr" could be topped, but this earlier novel of Vidal's is even more extraordinary.Vidal creates a memoir by the Emperor Julian and presents it with the commentary of two friends. This novelization gives the reader a good understanding of the social and political dynamics of this often neglected period of history.I expect that the scholarship is as accurate as the critics contend which makes this book not just fiction, but literature, and a major achievement for its author.The book begins with Julian's sheltered childhood as the nephew of the Emperor, who is always in fear that the males in his bloodline would rise up against him. The uncle, claiming to be a Christian (the new religion that has taken root), has killed Julian's father and later his brother along with many more. Seeds of doubt of this new religion were planted in Julian's mind early on.Some have commented that the book is hard on Christianity, but it shows how much the religion spead in the early days not just through missionary work, but also through politics and violence. It gives an equal number of swipes at the "old" religion. Julian's sacrifices are almost comedies (i.e. one bull had a damaged liver - an ominous sign, Julian spoke at the end of the ceremony negating its meaning so a healthy bull was brought in) as are Julian's looking for signs before battle.For anyone interested in historical fiction this is an engrossing read.

  • Linda
    2019-02-08 19:50

    Julian is stunning and awesome. Perhaps I am just being a snob when I am sometimes surprised that I have never even heard of a book and then it turns out to be amazing and I want everyone to read it. I shouldn't be, though, since often when the masses like something it is less than spectacular. Not usually a fan of historical fiction, I was drawn to this because I had decided to finally read Gore Vidal and I liked the idea of the plot: a Roman emperor attempting to squelch the wacky upstart religion of Christianity before it thoroughly took hold. I now plan to read more Gore. He plunges you into this world much like Umberto Eco in The Name of the Rose, perhaps even better. Despite the fact that I and many others born in the 20th century are unfamiliar with much of Greek and Roman history, the book is not at all off-putting, and you learn all about the goings on in the politics of the empire without ever being confused or feeling like you are having to learn history in order to read your book. You also learn who's the crazy cult magician, who means well, and who is just the empire drunk. It's good stuff. Stirring, funny, philosophical, and a compelling drama as well, this novel is not to be missed.

  • Maggie Anton
    2019-02-19 16:59

    I started reading this book to learn more about 3rd and 4th century Rome and its politics as research for Rav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery, since Persia and Rome are often at war. To my astonishment, I could not put this book down. Vidal is an amazing writer, one whose talent I could never hope to reach. He takes us right into the heart of his characters, historical figures all, and brings them & all the Roman political intrigue of his time to life.

  • Zaphirenia
    2019-01-28 18:07

    Πραγματικά λυπάμαι που τελείωσε αυτό το βιβλίο. Φρεσκάροντας τις γνώσεις μου για την περίοδο που έζησε ο Ιουλιανός, συνειδητοποίησα ότι αυτό που είχα διαβάσει, ότι ο Gore Vidal μένει σε γενικές γραμμές πιστός στα ιστορικά δεδομένα, ισχύει. Ωστόσο, το βιβλίο είναι ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα και όχι ιστορία. Ο συγγραφέας μεταφέρει τον αναγνώστη στην εποχή των πρώτων χρόνων της επικράτησης του χριστιανισμού με ευκολία και σκιαγραφεί ένα πολύ ενδιαφέρον πορτραίτο του τελευταίου αυτοκράτορα που έμεινε πιστός στο ελληνικό πνεύμα και τη φιλοσοφία. Στον "Ιουλιανό" διαβάζουμε την αλληλογραφία μεταξύ δύο σημαντικών φιλοσόφων της εποχής, του Πρίσκου από την Αθήνα και του Λιβάνιου από την Αντιόχεια, οι οποίοι συζητούν τι θα κάνουν με τα απομνημονεύματα του Ιουλιανού. Οι δύο φιλόσοφοι αστειεύονται, διαφωνούν, καυτηριάζουν πολλές φορές ο ένας τον άλλον. Ο πρώτος είναι ορθολογιστής και απορρίπτει την ιδέα της μετά θάνατον ζωής ενώ ο δεύτερος μοιράζεται τις αποκρυφιστικές και μυστηριακές τάσεις του Ιουλιανού. Μοναδικό κοινό σημείο τους φαίνεται να είναι η αγάπη και ο θαυμασμός τους για τον ελληνιστή αύγουστο.Απολαυστικό βιβλίο. Στα συν του η ιστορική ακρίβεια (στο βαθμό βέβαια που δε βλάπτει τη μυθοπλαστική δημιουργία).

  • Steven E
    2019-02-05 17:55

    You wouldn't think a 500 page epistolary novel swirling around a short-reigned Roman emperor would be at all engrossing, but here we are. The emperor Julian famously tried to arrest the spread of Christianity and reinstall Hellenism in the 4th century, and do so without bloodletting. He was nearly Plato's philosopher king incarnate, a just and admirable ruler who simply wanted peace. Vidal's Julian dovetails nicely with his historical counterpart. He is learned and witty and self-aware, while brutal (but never unfair) in his assessment of early Christianity. There's a remarkable sense of einfuhlen here--approx. "othertime" in German--wherein the reader never feels that he/she is reading the 20th century conception of Julian but in fact is hearing from the real thing. Julian (and his mentors who occasionally comment posthumously to each other) is a wonderfully realized and complex protagonist, maybe even a hero.Vidal has said that you could quibble with his art, but he would reach for his thesaurus if you faulted his research. I find fault with neither.

  • Erik Graff
    2019-02-20 22:53

    Gore Vidal is a novelist with an agenda. Born in West Point, related to former vice presidents Aaron Burr and Al Gore and member of a prominent political family, Gore is credited with the first openly homosexual novel in American letters, the espousal of views generally to the left of the Democratic Party and general iconoclasm. He is also a decent historian and humorous socio-political essayist.Julian is one of his historical novels, a defense of the last of the avowedly non-Christian emperors and of the best of the Hellenistic and Roman cultures which he is constructed to represent. The research behind the book is good, albeit tendentious. "Atheism", by which the ancients meant Christianity and its rejection of the gods, does not come across well.

  • Sean
    2019-02-02 17:46

    The best book, hands-down, on everyone's favorite revanchist pagan emperor. If it was a person, I would kiss it. But it isn't, so I read it. You should, too.

  • La Stamberga dei Lettori
    2019-01-30 16:56

    Per ricostruire la vita di un imperatore noto quasi soltanto per essere stato un rinnegato, Giuliano di Gore Vidal propone più che un romanzo storico una sorta di reportage, quasi un’inchiesta giornalistica. Al personaggio cui Vidal intitola l’opera non viene dedicato, in genere, più di qualche rigo nei manuali di storia: come risarcimento per una gloria rubata da secoli di propaganda avversa, lo scrittore americano gli riserva un trattamento opposto, dipingendolo come ultimo ellenista, imperatore illuminato e tollerante, condottiero spregiudicato e pacato filosofo, che somma in sé le virtù militari di un Giulio Cesare, quelle politiche di un Ottaviano Augusto e quelle speculative di un Marco Aurelio. Un eroe degno del mito greco, la cui grandezza viene però troncata proprio sul punto di germogliare.‘Muore giovane chi è caro agli dei’, recita un aforisma del commediografo ateniese Menandro, ma nel caso di Giuliano vale il contrario: a lui, morto a 32 anni, quasi come Alessandro Magno, erano cari gli dei, che vedeva come simboli, nella cornice culturale e religiosa del politeismo greco, dei valori e degli ideali che avevano innervato e sostenuto la grandezza del pensiero ellenico e dello stato romano, i due elementi di cui si considerava, in quanto imperatore-filosofo, erede e custode. La sua figura tragica ed eroica insieme di grande vissuto come una meteora nel periodo storico sbagliato, nel declino del mondo pagano, riceve da Vidal una luce che ricompensa in parte l’oblio venato di disprezzo cui la vittoria del cristianesimo lo aveva condannato con il marchio d’infamia di ‘apostata’, il rinnegato.Continua su:

  • liirogue
    2019-02-02 16:54

    I never knew that after Constantine, the Roman Empire reverted (briefly) to the old gods. Gore Vidal does a good job of describing the man who attempted to undo the religious changes and bring back the old ways.I really liked the style he chose to write the book in - two old friends write letters to each other, reminiscing about the now deceased Julian. You then read Julian's autobiography, interspersed with humorous and enlightening comments from both of these old friends. These comments also brilliantly remind the reader that human memory is fallible, the past is often remembered the way that someone wants, and that two people will rarely agree on the specifics of an event or a person's character. This really makes you question each of your narrators and adds another layer that is really nice.I also enjoyed Vidal's writing style. I found myself almost not caring what the meaning of some phrase was, because it was so well put down on paper, so beautifully or succinctly written. The only drawback is the character of Julian gets repetative in his constant denunciations of Christianity. The denunciations themselves didn't bother me in the least - they were actually pretty interesting the first time they were written. But the same arguments are made again and again. You can safely skim anything in the second half of the book dealing with religion, and you won't miss anything - it's all a rehash of something that came before.

  • Bart Everson
    2019-01-25 16:44

    A day or two after Gore Vidal died, I read a remembrance of him on The Wild Hunt which recommended Julian. I checked the catalog and found the book in the stacks; working in the same building as a library has advantages. It's historical fiction, and account of the life of Julian, who reigned briefly over the Roman Empire in the middle of the 4th century A.D. At this time Christianity was on the rise; Julian's predecessors were Christian, but he tried to take the empire back to paganism, restoring the worship of the old gods. Midway through the book, it dawned on me how very differently history might have unfolded if Julian had live longer. It's truly bizarre to think someone who lived some 16 centuries ago could have any influence on my life. I enjoyed this book immensely. I don't read much historical fiction, but I've long been fascinated by the Roman Empire. I tend to think of either the earlier pagan origins of the empire or its latter Christian legacy, but this novel paints a vivid and nuanced picture of flux and transition and the various tensions that must surely have been in play.

  • Alberto Delgado
    2019-02-06 14:58

    A cualquier lector al que le gusten las novelas históricas le recomiendo sin duda leer este libro. A veces nos hacemos unas ideas preconcebidas que no tienen nada que ver con la realidad. Había pasado por mis manos este libro en varias ocasiones y siempre lo había dejado apartado por la absurda creencia que presuponía que su autor no me iba a gustar pensando que iba a tener un estilo de escritura "demasiado académico" craso error por mi parte. Al final decidí darle una oportunidad y al menos iniciar la lectura para ver que me parecía . Me he encontrado con un libro maravilloso escrito de forma brillante por Gore Vidal en el que da vida y luz a un emperador no muy conocido ya que como ocurre tantas veces en la historia los perdedores siempre son olvidados. Juliano fue sobrino de Constantino el grande este si muy conocido por ser el que hizo religión oficial al cristianismo. Juliano intentó revertir esta situación cuando alcanzó el poder y volver a imponer al helenismo como religión principal pero su intento fracasó y esto ha echo que su figura quedara sepultada por la historia. El libro está escrito a 3 voces narrativas en las figuras de Juliano y de los filosofos Prisco y Libanio que sirven de contrapunto al emperador y hacen muy amena la narración. Sin duda este libro tiene muchos puntos en común con Yo Claudio por la semenjanza en la vida de los dos emperadores protagonistas pero a mi este me parece mas accesible en su lectura que el de Graves. El primer 5 estrellas de este 2017 en mis lecturas.

  • Horia Bura
    2019-02-08 18:53

    There aren't, simply, enough glorious epithets to praise this magnificent literary work of art! Alongside Robert Graves's "I, Claudius", this is the best historical novel I have ever read and must be one of the great masterpieces of its genre! Probably inspired by the aforesaid author, Vidal manages to create a compelling (and historically accurate) account of Roman Emperor Julian's (a.k.a. Julian the Apostate) life story, succesfully combining multiple narrative voices, thus bringing that neccessary and hailed multiperspectivity from the realm of historiography to the one of literature. Of course, in 1964, this was no longer an original thing to do (another great American, Faulkner, showed us how it's done), but Vidal takes this "recipe" even further, by creating an indirect "dialogue" between the account almost synchronous with the events and the diachronic interpretation thereof. And, as expected, the reader is placed in front of some obvious incongruences, mostly arising from the subjective interpretation of a character or another. In terms of Julian's spectacular historical figure and destiny, these "memoirs" concocted by Vidal are more than relevant and useful for understanding his complicated life and times, although the harsh critique of Christianity (and the subsequent depiction in its early stages) might offend some "good Christians". All in all, "Julian" is a rare delight for the spirit and for the true enthusiast of literature.

  • Vicky
    2019-01-27 23:14

    I am nearly at the end of this book, around 100 pages left. This is a book that takes a long time to finish. I had to stop, to read something else and to return. The language is so rich, the historical background is very complex and well researched and the references to the ancient philosophers are amazing. This period of history when the power of Roman Empire divided between West and East was declining and the Dark Ages were replacing the glamour of Rome is not very well known. The Christianity became the dominant religion after the emperor Constantine accepted it himself. Julian, the grandson of the Constantine, admire of Greek culture tried to reverse the empire back to the old gods. His rule was short, but in a very limited time he initiated the number of reforms and won the military companies that put him on the same level as Alexander or Julius Caesar. I don't think there are many writers today who can write in the style of Gore Vidal and I am looking forward for more of his books.

  • AnaVlădescu
    2019-02-06 21:02

    A feast for the mind, this book is a memoir of the Roman Emperor Julian, following his life from the insecurity during the ruling years of a killer when he was a child, his love of studying and philosophy, and then becoming an emperor, through to his campaign in Persia, which was to bring an end to his reign. Written superbly, I couldn't help but be fascinated with the subject, and I am very curious about some aspects of Julian's life indeed.

  • Basim Mahmoud
    2019-01-22 20:04

    And then, he wrote: “I have been reading Plotinus all evening. He has the power to soothe me; and I find his sadness curiously comforting. Even when he writes: "Life here with the things of earth is a sinking, a defeat, a failing of the wing." The wing has indeed failed. One sinks. Defeat is certain. Even as I write these lines, the lamp wick sputters to an end, and the pool of light in which I sit contracts. Soon the room will be … ”One should read this to learn how novels are written. But, why Julian? Is its because .. he meets a previous desire and approval of some of Gore's ideas about religions as an esthetic? No one knows, as, writers are wizards, crypts ideas, in the molds of narrative, and so, through the symbols, prints left behind, some on purpose, and some not –and some intending misleading for the followers under the timeless secret concept of the novelists:"Dear! This is a novel not a book of History!" .. they enjoy the game a lot, getting much pleasure –and experience too!- from the other's interpretations, and so, if they are masters in the craft , in the art of illusion, they always .. succeed. The writer mentioned a bibliography on which he depended, to create his world, or The History According to Gore Vidal. Here, he uses so many styles to advance his meal, his vision: three narrators so as to show the case, by the opinion, and the opposite opinion, while, that space, between the real and the imagined disappears.He criticizes the Christianity, in Lipanius reflections:“From the beginning, the Christians tried to allay man's fear of death. Yet they have still not found a way to release that element in each of us which demands communion with the One. Our mysteries accomplish this, which is why they are the envy of the Christians and the enduring object of their spite. Now I am perfectly willing to grant that the Christian way is one way to knowing. But it is not the only way, as they declare. If it were, why would they be so eager to borrow from us? What most disturbs me is their curious hopelessness about this life, and the undue emphasis they put on the next. Of course eternity is larger than the brief span of a man's life, but to live entirely within the idea of eternity is limiting to the spirit and makes man wretched in his day-to-day existence, since his eye must always be fixed not on this lovely world but on that dark door through which he must one day pass. The Christians are almost as death-minded as the original Egyptians, and I have yet to meet one, even my old pupil and beloved friend Basil, who has ever got from his faith that sense of joy and release, of oneness with creation and delight in what has been created, that a man receives when he has gone through those days and nights at Eleusis. It is the meagreness of Christian feeling that disconcerts me, their rejection of this world in fayour of a next which is—to be tactful—not entirely certain. Finally, one must oppose them because of their intellectual arrogance, which seems to me often like madness.” Then, in Julian's fast replies on the bishops "using their weapons in arguing" after Christians were accused of burning the temple of Apollo:“Fortunately, no lives were lost. The Christians suffered nothing more serious than the shutting down of the cathedral. Later a number of bishops came to Julian to complain that he was causing them great hardship, to which he replied with some humour, "But it is your duty to bear these 'persecutions' patiently. You must turn the other cheek, for that is the command of your God.” About History:“Traditionally the reporting of speeches in historical texts is not meant to be literal. But my version of Valentinian's comments was accurate because I kept a few notes at the time, which I am using now in making this commentary. Yet here is Julian less than a week later already altering the text. History is idle gossip about a happening whose truth is lost the instant it has taken place. I offer you this banality for what it is: the truth!” Here, it's a whole world, wars, heroes and anti-heroes, schemes, the role of oracles and superstitions, Mentors and Godfathers, from the prisms of writings, recorded events, confessions, while the artist plays god, weaving his universe, according to his majesty. This is a masterpiece. One "must" revise himself many times after reading this, if he wants to publish a novel. And then, Pricsus completes: “ .. Soon the room will be dark. One has always feared that death would be like this. But what else is there? With Julian, the light went, and now nothing remains but to let the darkness come, and hope for a new sun and another day, born of time's mystery and man's love of light”.

  • Cristina
    2019-02-13 15:10

    BLOG: di Giuliano è una figura quasi marginale, che difficilmente si può sentire nominare se viene chiesto di elencare i nomi di alcuni imperatori romani, il pensiero infatti corre soprattutto alle figure ben più note di Augusto, Nerone, Adriano o Marco Aurelio. La sua figura però si colloca in un momento particolare della storia romana ovvero in quel periodo in cui il Cristianesimo stava per finire di consolidare la sua egemonia e il suo potere, non sorprende dunque che quando l'imperatore decise di restaurare il culto degli dei e arginare così la marea cristiana che andava montando, nella speranza di vedere rifiorire l'età dell'oro dell'impero romano, si sia guadagnato a causa di ciò l'appellativo di "apostata", ovvero rinnegatore del proprio credo. Evidentemente la figura rivoluzionaria ma anche profondamente tragica di Giuliano deve aver ispirato una certa curiosità anche in Gore Vidal, che nel 1964, dopo anni di ricerche e duro lavoro, dà alle stampe il suo romanzo sulla vita di questo imperatore. Che il libro abbia richiesto una mole di lavoro non indifferente è d'obbligo puntualizzarlo, dato che lo stesso autore nell'introduzione prima e nella nota dopo, tiene molto a spiegare che sebbene siamo in presenza di un romanzo, di un testo narrativo che non si esime dall'adattare la realtà storica alla finzione romanzesca, tuttavia un ampio lavoro di ricerca delle fonti è stato svolto minuziosamente:, sono state infatti vagliate sia le opere scritte dallo stesso Giuliano ma anche i resoconti di Ammiano Marcellino, le orazioni di Libanio e di Gregorio di Nazianzio, fino ad arrivare alle analisi storiche relativamente più recenti di Edward Gibbon. Il corredo storico quindi è di tutto rispetto, ma Vidal non si accontenta e decide di rendere più autorevole la narrazione stessa utilizzando come personaggi due intellettuali dell'epoca in cui visse l'imperatore, infatti il romanzo si apre con uno scambio epistolare tra il già citato Libanio, che vorrebbe pubblicare una biografia di Giuliano ormai defunto da sedici anni, e Prisco, personaggio molto vicino all'imperatore e che ha dunque vissuto in prima persona molti degli avvenimenti narrati, inoltre è in possesso del carteggio personale di Giuliano che si compone di una raccolta delle res gestae dell'imperatore dettate a un segretario e un diario personale scritto invece di proprio pugno da Giuliano. Dunque lettere, cronaca ufficiale e diario personale sono gli artifici narrativi di cui Vidal si serve per raccontarci la storia di Giuliano, tutto è narrato in prima persona ma dato che a scrivere sono ben tre personaggi diversi è possibile analizzare ed entrare dentro i fatti e gli avvenimenti da più prospettive, ovviamente sia Libanio che Prisco sono in sintonia con la visione e le idee di quello che è stato probabilmente l'imperatore più osteggiato di tutti, tuttavia la loro vicinanza ideologica si dipana su due sentieri paralleli, mentre il primo, infatti, vorrebbe portare avanti il lavoro iniziato da Giuliano, rispondendo criticamente attraverso la biografia dell'imperatore a tutti coloro che vorrebbero cancellarne la memoria; Prisco si dimostra invece più ancorato alla realtà, non rinnega di condividere gli ideali del defunto imperatore, tuttavia sa che il suo progetto era destinato a fallire già quando Giuliano era in vita, figurarsi adesso che l'imperatore è morto e il Cristianesimo ha perso il suo ultimo nemico. Dal racconto di meri fatti storici infatti il romanzo diventa un raffinato affresco dell'impero romano del IV secolo d.C., è un periodo storico complicato ma forse proprio per questo affascinante, l'impero non è più quello dei tempi di Augusto o di Traiano, le sue basi iniziano a traballare, dopotutto tra solo un altro centinaio di anni l'impero si sfalderà, la stessa casa imperiale che vede al governo i successori del grande Costantino è un coacervo di tradimenti, barbare uccisioni e continue lotte per il potere. Lo stesso Giuliano ne è rimasto vittima, la sua famiglia è stata praticamente eliminata da Costanzo, l'attuale imperatore, che troppo spaventato di perdere la corona decide di eliminare ogni possibile pretendente al trono, solo Giuliano e suo fratello Gallo vengono risparmiati in quanto bambini, ma la loro non sarà una vita semplice e tranquilla, dato che il solo fatto di essere imparentati con la casa reale fa sì che le loro vite siano in costante pericolo. Ma i problemi e i cambiamenti non si avvertono solo a livello politico o all'interno della casa reale, infatti il periodo successivo al regno di Costantino è fondamentale anche per il rafforzamento dell'egemonia cristiana, grazie proprio all'editto di Milano promulgato dal vincitore della battaglia di Ponte Milvio e alla grande capacità di organizzazione gerarchica che il Cristianesimo ha saputo velocemente darsi, hanno fatto sì che da religione apertamente osteggiata dall'Impero, il Cristianesimo diventasse una delle più praticate, andando a ribaltare il precedente stato delle cose, adesso sono i pagani ad essere in minoranza, anche se non effettivamente perseguitati. In questa situazione storica e politica si inserisce la figura di Giuliano, figura tragica, che ha lottato con convinzione per i propri ideali ma che probabilmente non si è reso conto del mutato contesto sociale e storico. La sua lotta per restaurare gli antichi culti è profondamente sentita e percorre giustamente l'intera narrazione, a volte tratteggiato come un eroe della classicità, un nuovo Achille, del suo epigono greco condivide però una morte precoce e l'impossibilità di veder compiuto il proprio progetto: come Achille non vede la caduta di Troia così Giuliano non vedrà quella del Cristianesimo, ma lo scarto più importante sta nel fatto che, anche se l'eroe greco è morto, Troia è destinata a cadere, mentre così non sarà per il Cristianesimo, destinato invece a trionfare, l'ellenismo, gli dei e la cultura greca sembrano aver ricevuto il definitivo colpo di grazia. Anzi con i seguaci più tenaci del Cristianesimo, Giuliano sembra condividere molto, anche lui infatti si dimostra duro e spietato pur di riportare in vita gli dei ormai decaduti. A volte, come riconosce lo stesso Prisco, la volontà ferrea di Giuliano si traduce in cecità e in ingenuità, se persino Roma non è stata costruita in un giorno, di certo è quasi impossibile pensare di cambiare lo status quo con una rapida inversione, come se nulla fosse cambiato dai tempi di Romolo. Eppure è impossibile non sentire affetto per la figura di Giuliano, il merito va certamente anche a Gore Vidal che ha saputo esaltare il fatto storico e creare un personaggio sfaccettato, in cui luce e ombra si mescolano in un sapiente chiaroscuro, Giuliano infatti non è perfetto, sbaglia, si affretta, si fida di chi non dovrebbe fidarsi e a volte appare chiuso e bigotto tanto quanto i "galilei" che vuole sconfiggere, tuttavia la sua figura ispira anche rispetto, quello che ispirano tutte le figure di sognatori che si prefiggono un obiettivo, anche se questo appare irrealizzabile. Perché la parabola della vita di Giuliano è proprio questa: un individuo che nonostante le difficoltà accetta il fardello e tenta di fare ciò che ritiene giusto, nonostante tutti i pericoli che si dovranno affrontare, Giuliano accetta il cimento e lotta fino alla tragica morte avvenuta durante la campagna di Persia, che risulterà fallimentare, l'ultimo imperatore pagano muore e con lui anche il sogno, e qui un altro paragone con la cultura greca destinato a rimanere incompiuto, di proporsi al mondo come il nuovo Alessandro Magno, come un nuovo conquistatore destinato a compiere grandi imprese poiché protetto e benvoluto dagli dei, ma "times are a-changin'" canterà qualcuno moltissimi secoli più tardi, il tempo degli eroi è tramontato e gli dei sono caduti. Ma Giuliano sembra anche assurgere a simbolo dell'intero impero romano che va sempre più polarizzandosi verso i suoi estremi, occidente e oriente mostrano caratteri peculiari e profonde diversità, lo stesso imperatore ribadisce più volte di sentirsi più greco che romano e ciò è testimoniato anche dal suo amore e rispetto per l'ellenismo e il suo regno paradossalmente è più affine a quello della vicina Persia che a Roma. Sintomatico di questo decentramento del peso politico è il fatto che Giuliano, ma anche altri prima e dopo di lui, non vedrà mai Roma, nominalmente ancora capitale e centro nevralgico dell'impero, della pars occidentalis visiterà solo la Gallia, a testimonianza che gli equilibri sono ormai mutati, che sono le periferie dell'impero quelle capaci di apportare sostanziali mutamenti, di nominare o far decadere gli imperatori, con Costantinopoli che ormai è divenuta il centro nevralgico di tutte le operazioni, sia politiche che militari.Ma il romanzo non è solo descrizione della vita e delle idee dell'imperatore, ma in un certo qual modo sostiene un'originale critica storica del pensiero cristiano. Oggi siamo abituati a considerare il Cristianesimo come un blocco ben definito di dottrine e dogmi, ma non è stato sempre così, anzi le dispute interne e le accuse di eresia erano praticamente all'ordine del giorno durante il IV secolo d.C. e il romanzo non manca di sottolineare come a decidere questioni di dottrina ci fossero alla fin fine dei semplici esseri umani con i loro pregi e difetti e con le loro brame di potere. È un Cristianesimo ancora acerbo e per certi versi molto brutale quello descritto da Vidal e nel confronto con il decadente sistema religioso tradizionale romano appare evidente come in realtà le distanze tra i due poli non fossero poi così evidenti, anzi il Cristianesimo ha come divorato e inglobato molte delle idee e delle tradizioni pagane, basti pensare al Natale che corrisponde alle festività legate al solstizio d'inverno e al Sol Invictus, al concetto di rinascita pagano viene sovrapposto quello cristiano. Anche in materia religiosa dunque sembra valere quel principio della fisica secondo cui nulla si crea o si distrugge ma tutto si trasforma. Ma probabilmente, almeno secondo la visione di Vidal, ciò che è sorto dall'espansione e affermazione del Cristianesimo è un mondo popolato da persone che non sanno che farsene della vita, un culto di morte e mortificazione del corpo e dello spirito che nulla ha più della vivacità religiosa pagana, e il cui unico Dio risulta distante, perfetto, a volte anche crudele e del tutto diverso dagli dei da sempre rappresentati come portatori degli stessi vizi e delle stesse virtù degli esseri umani, non perfetti e forse per questo sentiti più vicini.Se una critica può essere mossa a questo libro è che a volte le scelte lessicali non risultano del tutto appropriate, sia nella sua versione originale inglese che nelle scelte di traduzione, per ben due volte si trova la parola "snob", facendo una rapida ricerca etimologica si scopre che il termine è entrato nell'uso della lingua inglese solo nella seconda metà dell'800, ma poco male, sarebbe impossibile voler scrivere un romanzo storico utilizzando la lingua parlata nel periodo di cui si sta narrando (anche perché in questo caso probabilmente il romanzo avrebbe dovuto essere scritto in latino!) ma se "snob" risulta una parola comune in inglese, così non può dirsi in italiano dove salta subito all'occhio il suo status di "anglismo", probabilmente una scelta stilistica diversa al momento della traduzione sarebbe stata consigliabile. Lo stesso può dirsi del termine "poseur", forse Gore Vidal avrebbe potuto trovare un termine meno spiazzante.Ad ogni modo la potenza del romanzo sta nel collocarsi in un momento di rottura e mostrare come l'essere umano si pone davanti ai grandi cambiamenti: c'è chi si lascia trasportare, perché se ne convince o per mero calcolo opportunistico, ma c'è anche chi si oppone, anche qui il confine tra anacronismo e lotta per un ideale si fa labile e sfumato. Rimane comunque chi ha saputo prendere una posizione e mantenerla nonostante i venti del cambiamento soffiassero impetuosi, Giuliano ne è rimasto sopraffatto ma la sua lezione rimane comunque fissata nella storia.

  • Stevelvis
    2019-02-18 16:10

    Another amazing read from Gore Vidal. Ever wondered what it's like to be King of the World? This is the story of Julian, from his regimented childhood when he never knew which day might be his last to his reign as Caesar and Augustus, ruler of the Roman Empire from Gaul (France) to the borders of Persia.Essentially historical fiction, but with the cultural detail and accuracy you'd expect from Gore Vidal as well as the fluid and floral prose which has earned him his reputation as one of America's greatest writers.You don't have to like history to enjoy this book. Colorful characters abound from the drunken and bloodthirsty Goths to the nomadic desert Saracens. Royal court intrigue, back stabbing politics, poison and treason are expected and not merely paranoia.Julian, raised to be a Christian in the still early years of the Church, instead becomes a born-again Pagan and attempts to lead the Empire back to it's glory days of Hellenist philosophy and religions. Various wealthy and powerful Bishops and Generals conspire against him to lead to the Empire's destruction and what we now know as the dark ages.

  • Theodora
    2019-02-07 22:48

    As a rule, I'm rather sceptical when it comes to historical novels and tend to avoid them. However, I was curious how Vidal would manage to write about Julian, having already heard and read quite a lot about that particular emperor and late antiquity in general.Vidal impressed me. The description of religious quarrels and political ambitions is spot-on. I do wonder if readers who aren't familiar with the historical background would find the book easy to understand, but to me the carefully dropped hints of plots other than the main one indicated that Vidal knows his stuff very well indeed. The characters really come to life. Moreover, Vidal is really funny in parts, and tragic in others. The question whether the whole thing is reality or fiction is always hovering on the edge of the story and is adressed by several of the main characters. I thought this was important because otherwise it might have been just another historical novel taking itself seriously.

  • Kyle Muntz
    2019-02-18 20:05

    I have no idea why it took me so long to finish this. It's not quite as good as Creation, but on the other hand it's about maybe one of the most interesting people in human history--a roman emperor who studied philosophy and might have made the world Pagan again. Vidal's prose is strong, insightful, well researched, and always clear. This book is maybe mostly interesting for its critique of the history/emergence of Christianity (still pretty relevant, maybe more than ever, as it deals with the beginning of the naturalized institutions we deal with now), but it's fantastic historical fiction as well. I think I especially enjoyed Julian's younger life and the time he spent studying philosophy in Athens, and it makes me wish Vidal had written more novels dealing with ancient history, rather than just America.

  • Paul Patterson
    2019-02-22 19:05

    When I started my reading of Julian the Apostate I was kindly disposed to reading it. However, when you read over 300 pages and are in no way grasped by a book it is time to consider relinquishing the task. I appreciated reading about Julian's perspectives on paganism, his Mithraic initiation, and his desire for a inter-religious toleration. But the military and political aspects of the book were sheer drudgery. From what I did read up to p.300 Julian though a novice in army and governance was capable of learning but still caught in the conservative political perspective of Rome. I have read a fair amount on Roman politics so this book was pretty much a rehash. This book is an early Vidal novel and that may go a long way to explaining it pedantic approach. Enough said.